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When Commenting we want to stick to certain principles.

1) No profanity

2) Respect the Author and other commentors

3) Opinions and comments are generally accepted as long as they are not too far into the fringe.

3) Fallacy – Please do not use fallacious arguments or operate from the logical notion of incredulity.

For some simple guidance:

fallacy is a part of a discourse, being demonstrably flawed in its logical precepts or form.  This renders the argument invalidated in part or in whole.

Examples and Types of fallacies

In logical arguments, fallacies are either formal or informal. Because the validity of a deductive argument depends on its form, a formal fallacy is a deductive argument that has an invalid form, whereas an informal fallacy is any other invalid mode of reasoning whose flaw is not in the form of the argument.

Beginning with Aristotle, informal fallacies have generally been placed in one of several categories, depending on the source of the fallacy. There are fallacies of relevance, fallacies involving causal reasoning, and fallacies resulting from ambiguities (or equivocations).

Recognizing fallacies in actual arguments may be difficult since arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure the logical connections between assertions. Fallacies may also exploit the emotional or intellectual weaknesses of the interlocutor. Having the capability of recognizing logical fallacies in arguments reduces the likelihood of such an occurrence.

A different approach to understanding and classifying fallacies is provided by argumentation theory; see for instance the van Eemeren, Grootendorst reference below. In this approach, an argument is regarded as an interactiveprotocol between individuals which attempts to resolve a disagreement. The protocol is regulated by certain rules of interaction, and violations of these rules are fallacies. Many of the fallacies in the list below are best understood as being fallacies in this sense.

Fallacious arguments involve not only formal logic but also causality. Others may involve psychological ploys such as use of power relationships between proposer and interlocutor to establish necessary intermediate (explicit or implicit) premises for an argument. Fallacies often have unstated assumptions or implied premises in arguments that are not always obvious at first glance.

Note that providing a critique of an argument has no relation to the truth of the conclusion. The conclusion could very well be true, while the argument as to why the conclusion is true is not valid. See argument from fallacy.

The classification of material fallacies widely adopted by modern logicians and based on that of Aristotle, Organon (Sophistici elenchi), is as follows:

  • Fallacy of Accident (also called destroying the exception or a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid)–makes a generalization that disregards exceptions (e.g., Cutting people is a crime. Surgeons cut people. Therefore, surgeons are criminals.)
  • Converse Fallacy of Accident (also called reverse accident, destroying the exception, or a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter)–argues from a special case to a general rule (e.g., Every swan I have seen is white, so it must be true that all swans are white..)
  • Irrelevant Conclusion (also called Ignoratio Elenchi)–diverts attention away from a fact in dispute rather than address it directly. This is sometimes referred to as a “red herring”. Subsets include:
    • purely personal considerations (argumentum ad hominem),
    • popular sentiment (argumentum ad populum–appeal to the majority),
    • fear (argumentum ad baculum),
    • conventional propriety (argumentum ad verecundiam–appeal to authority)
  • Affirming the Consequent–draws a conclusion from premises that do not support that conclusion by assuming Q implies P on the basis that P implies Q (e.g., If I have the flu, then I have a sore throat. I have a sore throat. Therefore, I have the flu. Other illnesses may cause sore throat.)
  • Denying the antecedent–draws a conclusion from premises that do not support that conclusion by assuming Not P implies Not Q on the basis that P implies Q (e.g., If I have the flu, then I have a sore throat. I do not have the flu. Therefore, I do not have a sore throat. Other illnesses may cause sore throat.)
  • Begging the question (also called Petitio PrincipiiCirculus in Probando–arguing in a circle, or assuming the answer)–demonstrates a conclusion by means of premises that assume that conclusion (e.g., Paul must be telling the truth, because I have heard him say the same thing many times before. Paul may be consistent in what he says, but he may have been lying the whole time.)
  • Call to Perfection is committed when one argues to postpone some action or policy until some unlikely event or impossible change is achieved. (example: I’ll do it the day that pigs can fly. Since pigs do not fly and will probably never be able to, the action or policy will probably never take place.)
  • Fallacy of False Cause or Non Sequitur (Latin for “it does not follow”)–incorrectly assumes one thing is the cause of another (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great.)
    • A special case of this fallacy also goes by the Latin term post hoc ergo propter hoc–the fallacy of believing that temporal succession implies a causal relation.
    • Another special case is given by the Latin term cum hoc ergo propter hoc — the fallacy of believing that happenstance implies causal relation (aka as fallacy of causation versus correlation: assumes that correlation implies causation).
  • Fallacy of Many Questions (Plurium Interrogationum)–groups more than one question in the form of a single question (e.g., Is it true that you no longer beat your wife? A yes or no answer will still be an admission of guilt to wife-beating.)

The following argument is posited:

  1. Cheese is food.
  2. Food is delicious.
  3. Therefore, cheese is delicious.

This argument claims to prove that cheese is delicious. This particular argument has the form of a categorical syllogism. Any argument must have premises as well as a conclusion. In this case we need to ask what the premises are—that is, the set of assumptions the proposer of the argument can expect the interlocutor to grant. The first assumption is almost true by definition: cheese is a foodstuff edible by humans. The second assumption is less clear as to its meaning. Since the assertion has no quantifiers of any kind, it could mean any one of the following:

  • All food is delicious.
  • Most food is delicious.
  • To me, all food is delicious.
  • Some food is delicious.

In all but the first interpretation, the above syllogism would then fail to have validated its second premise. The person may try to assume that his interlocutor believes that all food is delicious; if the interlocutor grants this then the argument is valid. In this case, the interlocutor is essentially conceding the point to that person. However, the interlocutor is more likely to believe that some food is disgusting, such as a frog’s liver white chocolate torte with mustard; and in this case the person is not much better off than he was before he formulated the argument, since he now has to prove the assertion that cheese is a unique type of universally delicious food, which is a disguised form of the original thesis. From the point of view of the interlocutor, the person commits the logical fallacy of begging the question.

Verbal fallacies

Verbal fallacies are those in which a conclusion is obtained by improper or ambiguous use of words. They are generally classified as follows.

  • Equivocation consists in employing the same word in two or more senses, e.g. in a syllogism, the middle term being used in one sense in the major and another in the minor premise, so that in fact there are four not three terms (“All heavy things have a great mass; This is heavy fog; therefore this fog has a great mass”).
  • Connotation fallacies occur when a dysphemistic word is substituted for the speaker’s actual quote and used to discredit the argument. It is a form of attribution fallacy.
  • Amphibology is the result of ambiguity of grammatical structure, e.g. of the position of the adverb “only” in careless writers (“He only said that,” in which sentence, the adverb has been intended to qualify any one of the other three words).
  • Fallacy of Composition “From Each to All”. Arguing from some property of constituent parts, to the conclusion that the composite item has that property e.g. “all the band members (constituent parts) are highly skilled, therefore the band (composite item) is highly skilled”. This can be acceptable with certain arguments such as spatial arguments e.g. “all the parts of the car are in the garage, therefore the car is in the garage”
  • Division, the converse of the preceding, arguing from a property of the whole, to each constituent part e.g. “the university (the whole) is 700 years old, therefore, all the staff (each part) are 700 years old”.
  • Proof by verbosity, sometimes colloquially referred to as argumentum verbosium – a rhetorical technique that tries to persuade by overwhelming those considering an argument with such a volume of material that the argument sounds plausible, superficially appears to be well-researched, and it is so laborious to untangle and check supporting facts that the argument might be allowed to slide by unchallenged.
  • Accent, which occurs only in speaking and consists of emphasizing the wrong word in a sentence. e.g., “He is a fairly good pianist,” according to the emphasis on the words, may imply praise of a beginner’s progress, or an expert’s deprecation of a popular hero, or it may imply that the person in question is a deplorable pianist.[citation needed]
  • Figure of Speech, the confusion between the metaphorical and ordinary uses of a word or phrase.
  • Fallacy of Misplaced Concretion, identified by Whitehead in his discussion of metaphysics, this refers to the reification of concepts which exist only in discourse.

Here are some more examples

Scotty says:

  1. Scotty is a good guitar player.
  2. Therefore, Scotty is ‘good’, that is to say a morally good person.

Here the problem is that the word good has different meanings, which is to say that it is an ambiguous word. In the premise, Scotty says that Scotty is good at some particular activity, in this case kicking ROck and Roll Guitar. Scotty says that he is a morally good person. These are clearly two different senses of the word “good”. The premise might be true but the conclusion can still be false: Scotty might be the best guitar player in the world but a dirty rotten scoundrel. However, it is not legitimate to infer he is a bad person on the ground there has been a fallacious argument on the part of Scotty. Nothing concerning his moral qualities is to be inferred from the premise. Appropriately, since it plays on an ambiguity, this sort of fallacy is called the

Fallacy of Equivocation

that is, equating two incompatible terms or claims.

Example 2

Bryan posts the argument:

  1. Nothing is better than eternal everlasting happiness.
  2. Eating a hamburger is better than nothing.
  3. Therefore, eating a hamburger is better than eternal happiness.

This argument has the appearance of an inference that applies transitivity of the two-placed relation is better than, which in this critique we grant is a valid property. The argument is an example of

Syntactic ambiguity

In fact, the first premise semantically does not predicate an attribute of the subject, as would for instance the assertion

A potato is better than eternal happiness.

In fact it is semantically equivalent to the following universal quantification:

Everything fails to be better than eternal happiness.

So instantiating this fact with eating a hamburger, it logically follows that

Eating a hamburger fails to be better than eternal happiness.

Note that the premise A hamburger is better than nothing does not provide anything to this argument. This fact really means something such as

Eating a hamburger is better than eating nothing at all.

Thus this is a fallacy of composition.

These sort of fallacies are firmly tied to English language and how the words are used in ambiguous ways in several expressions. The phrase “nothing is better than X” actually means “Such a thing that would be better than X does not exist”. If the arguments mentioned in this article were to be translated to other languages, they would suddenly make no sense at all since the word “nothing” would be translated differently in different sentences.

Deductive fallacy

Main article: Deductive fallacy

In philosophy, the term logical fallacy properly refers to a formal fallacy : a flaw in the structure of a deductive argument which renders the argument invalid.

However, it is often used more generally in informal discourse to mean an argument which is problematic for any reason, and thus encompasses informal fallacies as well as formal fallacies. – valid but unsound claims or bad nondeductive argumentation – .

The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument’s premises or its conclusion (see fallacy fallacy). Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument (e.g. appeal to authority), but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.

Other systems of classification

Of other classifications of fallacies in general the most famous are those of Francis Bacon and J. S. Mill. Bacon (Novum Organum, Aph. 33, 38 sqq.) divided fallacies into four Idola (Idols, i.e. False Appearances), which summarize the various kinds of mistakes to which the human intellect is prone. With these should be compared the Offendicula of Roger Bacon, contained in the Opus maius, pt. i. J. S. Mill discussed the subject in book v. of his Logic, and Jeremy Bentham’s Book of Fallacies (1824) contains valuable remarks. See Rd. Whateley’s Logic, bk. v.; A. de Morgan, Formal Logic (1847) ; A. Sidgwick, Fallacies (1883) and other textbooks.

Fallacies are used frequently by pundits in the media and politics. When one politician says to another, “You don’t have the moral authority to say X“, this could be an example of the argumentum ad hominem or personal attackfallacy; that is, attempting to disprove X, not by addressing validity of X but by attacking the person who asserted X. Arguably, the politician is not even attempting to make an argument against X, but is instead offering a moral rebuke against the interlocutor. For instance, if X is the assertion:

The military uniform is a symbol of national strength and honor.

Then ostensibly, the politician is not trying to prove the contrary assertion. If this is the case, then there is no logically fallacious argument, but merely a personal opinion about moral worth. Thus identifying logical fallacies may be difficult and dependent upon context.

In the opposite direction is the fallacy of argument from authority. A classic example is the ipse dixit—”He himself said it” argument—used throughout the Middle Ages in reference to Aristotle. A modern instance is “celebrity spokespersons” in advertisements: a product is good and you should buy/use/support it because your favorite celebrity endorses it.

An appeal to authority is always a logical fallacy, though it can be an appropriate form of rational argument if, for example, it is an appeal to expert testimony . In this case, the expert witness must be recognized as such and all parties must agree that the testimony is appropriate to the circumstances. This form of argument is common in legal situations.

By definition, arguments with logical fallacies are invalid, but they can often be (re)written in such a way that they fit a valid argument form. The challenge to the interlocutor is, of course, to discover the false premise, i.e. the premise that makes the argument unsound.

11 Responses

  1. you are extremely knowledgeable about lots of things, gosh how do you do it?, it’s amazing how deep your feelings are about the things that you do

    • If I work more hours in a day, and produce more, I get more money. It DOES NOT take away from annoye else. There’s not LESS money in the world because I worked more, there is more of the products we PRODUCE, and I therefore have earned my paycheck. Can you imagine a baker producing less bread today because he might think he’s robbing the world of wealth? That’s the essence of the static quantity of wealth fallacy.

  2. Good points.

    • Come on folks, it isn’t going to happen. Schools will not be prviatized. Not because it is a terrible idea but because the government is involved. I lived through the early Reagan years when we thought that there was going to be real progress in curtailing government and making it more efficient. It didn’t happen then and it sure won’t happen now. It would be wonderful if we could actually get the government to be semi-efficient but that will not happen, unfortunately.Can schools be improved? Of course they can but it is only going to come about in small increments because that is how things actually happen. And we do need to work on doing just that.As to homeschooling, well I have to tell you as a teacher, it would be nice if the students whose parents actually cared that much were in my class instead. At least it would be nice for me. But honestly, if a parent is capable of giving their student a good education and developing an interest in the child to actually learn, then I have no problems with that at all. As to socialization, well in most schools socialization consists of lazy or bad students trying to hold back the good ones and getting the good students to do things they should not do, or at least trying to stop them from succeeding. That is the mentality you see in the average public school student.. but that is not surprising as that is the mentality you see in the average citizen.Bert

    • That’s a genuinely impressive answer.

    • When you think about it, that’s got to be the right answer.

    • Dag nabbit good stuff you whippersnappers!

    • Dude, right on there brother.

    • This is what we need – an insight to make everyone think

    • I love reading these articles because they’re short but informative.

    • Exemplary damages. Exemplary damages are designed to penalize wrongdoers who purposefully participate in despicable misconduct. Occasionally exemplary damages are also granted for gross negligence, which can be defined as nonperformance so terrible that punishment is deserved by Quotes Chimp. Exemplary damages are seldom a problem in auto accident cases, and auto insurances typically will not pay for honours of exemplary damages. Although they will be covered in Section 42, therefore, we will not discuss them farther here.

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